Nicolás Maduro (Venezuela), Miguel Díaz-Canel (Cuba), Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Kim Jong-un (North Korea), Xi Jinping (China) and Nguyen Phu Trong (Vietnam) were included in a list of 27 bosses of State considered “predators of press freedom”, released by the organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Monday (5). According to profiles published by the NGO, leaders of Leninist-inspired regimes use state power structures to quell dissenting voices in the press.
Since coming to power in China, Xi Jinping has strengthened the regime’s control over information, “in just a few years restoring a media culture worthy of the Maoist era,” says RSF. With the massive use of new technologies, the Chinese leader imposed a social model based on censorship, propaganda and surveillance. An example cited by the NGO is an app called “Study Xi to Make the Country Stronger”, mandatory for all journalists since 2019. “In addition to allowing the regime to test their loyalty, it is also suspected of accessing users’ phone data “, says the RSF, which also cites the persecution of foreign journalists in China and the attempt by the communist regime to try to export “its oppressive model”. More than 100 press freedom activists are imprisoned in China.
Miguel Díaz-Canel replaced Raul Castro as president of Cuba and first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party, but the methods of repressing press freedom remain the same. RSF cites that all media outlets are closely monitored by the State and that the private press is still prohibited by the Constitution. Arrests, arbitrary detentions, threats of arrest, persecution and harassment, illegal house searches, confiscation and destruction of journalistic material are also common for journalists who do not follow the Castroist narrative. Internet access is largely state-controlled and foreign journalists working in the country are closely watched – those who do very negative coverage could be expelled from the country. Raul Castro is also on the RSF list.
The secretary general of the Communist Party of Vietnam was once a journalist, but during his government the working conditions of professionals in the field got worse. According to the NGO, “Comrade Nguyen” has a police and judicial apparatus under his orders: he chases bloggers and independent journalists based on articles in the Penal Code that punish anyone who dares to “abuse of their democratic freedoms” – 30 bloggers and people who use the internet to express their discontent with the communist regime are currently detained.
“Under my leadership, the Central Committee of the Party promises to continue to steadfastly combat the expression of political pluralism,” Nguyen said on Jan. 26 at the Vietnam Communist Party congress.
According to the NGO, the North Korean communist regime, under the leadership of Kim Jong-un, “arrests, expels, sends to forced labor camps and murders media professionals.” The few foreign correspondents authorized to visit North Korea cannot speak to citizens and are accompanied by the authorities in all their movements. “The mere fact of consulting a media based abroad can earn North Koreans a lifetime stay in a concentration camp,” says RSF.
Under Ortega’s dictatorship, Nicaraguan journalists suffer threats, harassment, harassment and defamation campaigns and are arbitrarily imprisoned. A recent law passed by the regime-controlled assembly, the “Foreign Agents Regulation Act,” aims to closely monitor the media and organizations that receive external funding. Independent media outlets also suffer financial suffocation by the rules imposed by the State.
“In light of the presidential elections of November 2021, Ortega strengthened his arsenal of censorship by opening abusive lawsuits against all his opponents, both from the political class and among the media,” says RSF.
In Venezuela, few independent media outlets are resisting the attacks of the Nicolás Maduro dictatorship. The most recent and emblematic case is that of the newspaper El Nacional, which had its building confiscated by the courts after losing a defamation case against Diosdado Cabello, number two in Chavismo. Despite the attacks, El Nacional continues to do journalism on digital platforms.
In addition, RSF recalled that the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) deprives highly critical radio and television stations of their transmission frequencies and occasionally coordinates Internet cuts, blocking social networks and confiscating materials.
Persecution by the regime has caused many journalists to leave the country, especially since 2018, to preserve their physical integrity. This year, Maduro accused several independent NGOs and media, such as Efecto Cocuyo, Caraota Digital and El Pitazo, and Radio Fe y Alegría, of being “journalism mercenaries”, financed from abroad to overthrow the government.
Other names on the list
The president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, is also on the list for “his bellicose and coarse rhetoric” and for the “armies of supporters and robots (which on social media) relay and amplify attacks aimed at discrediting the press, presented as an enemy of the state “.
In addition to him, the Saudi crown prince, Mohamed bin Salman, is also listed because, according to US intelligence, he ordered the murder of journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Other names classified as “predators of press freedom”: Abdel Fattah al-Sissi (Egypt), Alexander Lukashenko (Belarus), Ali Khamenei (Iran), Bashar al-Assad (Syria). Carrie Lam (Hong Kong), Emomali Rakhmon (Tajikistan), Gotabaya Rajapaksa (Sri Lanka), Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov (Turkmenistan), Hamed bin Isa Al-Khalifa (Bahrain), Ilham Aliev (Azerbaijan), Imran Khan (Pakistan), Issaias Afeworki (Eritrea), Lee Hsien Loong (Singapore), Min Aung Hlaing (Myanmar), Narendra Modi (India), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Prayuth Chan-ocha (Thailand), Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines) , Salva Kiir (South Sudan), Sheikh Hasina (Bangladesh), Teodoro Obiang Nguema (Equatorial Guinea), Viktor Orbán (Hungary), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Ramzan Kadyrov (Chechnya), Vladimir Putin (Russia).